Lawmakers who hope to extend a ban on physician ownership of specialty hospitals past June 2005 have added about four dozen names to an American Hospital Association-sponsored letter to Republican and Democratic leaders. Seven lawmakers signed the original letter, which was dated July 27. A total of 48 representatives, from both parties, sent the same letter to their leadership, saying that it is "imperative that Congress be poised to address the issue early next year." The moratorium on physician ownership of specialty hospitals took effect last December as part of the Medicare Modernization Act.
Controversial OT rules survive
An amendment to eliminate controversial overtime rules that might bar some nurses from overtime pay did not survive a House-Senate conference committee. Its demise leaves in place new regulations implemented in August that critics say will strip 6 million workers of overtime protections. The American Nurses Association contends that the changes will hurt many nurses, while the Labor Department has said nurses will be affected little, if at all. The amendment, by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), had been attached to a $140 billion corporate-tax bill. The conference committee's tax bill, without the amendment, now goes back to Congress for final approval.
Bill extends foreign docs waiver
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation making it possible for foreign doctors to work in the U.S. if they agree to work in medically underserved areas for at least three years. At deadline, the full Senate was expected to pass the bill. The full House passed a similar bill earlier last week. Under the bill the J-1 visa waiver program, which expired May 31, would be reauthorized and extended for two years. The program allows state departments of health to hire up to 30 foreign doctors each year to work in underserved areas.
Nurse confesses to 17th murder
Former nurse Charles Cullen admitted to his 17th on-the-job murder, his first guilty plea in connection with a patient death in Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press. Cullen pleaded guilty to killing 78-year-old retired steelworker Ottomar Schramm with an overdose of heart medication at Easton (Pa.) Hospital in 1998. Cullen claims to have killed up to 40 patients during his nursing career in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Last spring, he pleaded guilty to killing 16 patients at two New Jersey hospitals under a broad plea agreement that spared him the death penalty. Other related deaths remain under review in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.